The newest Plastics News Processor of the Year, Evco Plastics Inc., represents some of the best qualities of American custom injection molders: A family-owned company committed to the plastics industry's demand for large and consistent capital spending on equipment, a constant search for new technologies and an understanding that people are the most important resource.
How many family-owned molders have plants in the United States, Mexico and China? How many started a plant in China back in 1989? How many have both large-tonnage injection presses — up to 3,500 tons of clamping force — and do clean room molding of medical parts?
Evco does all that and more. Read about it all in the profile of the company published online.
You can make a profit in custom molding, but owners of successful processors know they have to plow money back into the company just to keep up with competitors, let alone become a clear industry leader. That's one big lesson from the Processor of Year Award, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Evco, based in DeForest, Wis., has grown from humble beginnings in 1964 when Don Evans, one of the pioneers who began in plastics in the post-World War II era, sold his initial company to his brother-in-law and struck out on his own by starting Evco Plastics in his basement. His son, Dale Evans, took over the business in 1981.
Now Dale's daughters, Anna Bartz and Kate Bashir, play active roles at Evco — and they just had their first babies in January. That means Evco should be in the good hands of the Evans family for many years to come.
Dale Evans is a low-key leader, but he's effective. Spencer Wright, plant manager of Evco's plant in Oshkosh, Wis., put it best: “He listens. He understands. He values what you say. He understands what you're saying. And deep down, we're all in this together. He's learning as we go, too.”
That's another one of the hallmarks of the plastics industry. It's always changing. Nobody is going to be an expert on everything. Company ownership is learning right along with the machine operator on the shop floor.
Evco, with about $145 million in North American sales in 2015, is the largest of the four finalists for Processor of the Year.
The other finalists also are strong players, closely held with hands-on management, just like Evco. They are: Nicolet Plastics Inc. of Mountain, Wis., Dymotek Corp. of Ellington, Conn., and MTD Micro Molding of Charlton, Mass.
The judges — who are Plastics News reporters and editors — picked the finalists from 11 companies that sent in their submissions. (Thirty-two processors got nominated.) The quality of the submissions was high again this year. Some fine companies did not make it to the finalists' circle.
Candidates are evaluated on seven criteria, in a process that rewards companies that are well-rounded: financial performance, quality, customer relations, employee relations, environmental performance, industry/public service and technological innovation.
The three other finalists this year are, like Evco, good role models for the entire plastics industry. The diversity of this year's group finalists is impressive, and every processor can learn something from all four.
Nicolet Plastics, led by Bob Macintosh, has forged its own strategy for a cross-trained workforce, developing a detailed program of skills training backed up by pay raises. Employees run the show in Mountain, a remote town in the middle of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, 200 miles north of Milwaukee.
Nicolet employees absolutely have to be good. They schedule production, making changes throughout the day. In one part of the plant, every 15 minutes of production moves in containers down a conveyor, straight to the quality and packaging area.
Macintosh and the other Nicolet Plastics managers are devotees of Quick Response Manufacturing — producing parts and assemblies for customers what they want fast, in smaller lots.
For a small company, Nicolet has earned kudos and attention for its innovative approach to custom molding.
Nicolet won this year's PN Excellence Award for customer relations.
Dymotek specializes in two-shot molding and liquid silicone rubber, which it bonds to metal and thermoplastics. The company has seen sales more than double in the last three years, to $23 million in 2015.
Dymotek is a company to watch, especially for its efforts to attract young people through an internship program that has netted two solid employees in the last few years. Dymotek won the PN Excellence Award for employee relations, and you can read about that in this issue as well.
MTD Micro Molding is a fascinating company — a major player in the niche world of medical micromolding. Some of the parts are so small you need a microscope to view them. And amazingly, about three-quarters of MTD's parts are bio-absorbable, meaning they are absorb into your body after, say, non-invasive surgery.
Not many other molders are going to go after that market, to be sure. But MTD offers an outstanding example of employee relations — getting its people excited about projects that can seem impossible to mold at first — and customer relations, as the company works with customers that make unique products that help improve human health, or even save lives.
The third PN Excellence Award went to a non-finalist — Greystone Manufacturing, which makes pallets from 100 percent recycled plastic in Bettendorf, Iowa. It was awarded for industry and public service for its partnership with Goodwill Industries.
Finally, Plastics News named GW Plastics Inc., of Bethel, Vt., as the winner of the Sustained Excellence Award, which goes to past Processors of the Year. GW Plastics has maintained its high level of excellence that netted it the top Processor of the Year Award back in 2009. GW injection molds parts for the medical, automotive, consumer products and industrial markets.
Congratulations to all the finalists and winners — companies to respect, and emulate.